(Reuters/IraqiNews.com) The United Nations said on Thursday up to 200,000 more people could flee Mosul as fighting intensifies between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in the city.
“As military operations intensify and move closer to Mosul’s Old City area, we expect that up to 200,000 more people will flee,” Lise Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said in a statement.
The number of Iraqi refugees displaced by battles between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi government troops in Mosul has reached 670.000 since encounters broke out in October, the government said Wednesday.
Migration and Displacement Minister Jassem al-Jaff told al-Arabiya TV that 150.000 people have, meanwhile, returned to their home areas, adding that repatriation was still going with a slower pace compared to migration.
Earlier this week, Nineveh council member Hassan al-Allaf said that besides 600.000 civilians the government registered at refugee camps, there are 600.000 more who sought refuge with relatives or settled in rented lodgings.
Islamic State has faced accusations by the U.N., the Iraqi government and aid agencies of using civilians as human shields. Anxiousness for civilians’ lives had been a major reason behind occasional slowdowns of security operations, but dozens have, however, been killed in operations by Iraqi forces and the allied U.S.-led coalition.
Iraqi commanders have said they predict Mosul to be fully liberated from militants before the holy month of Ramadan, which starts May 27th, and said they control 90 percent of the western side of the city.